Category Archives: career change

The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are. 

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references, only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, there was a workaround. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.

Employers started to question the validity of these references. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like. 

Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.

I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.

What’s your point of view on references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?

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Job Postings and Romance

I have been reading a lot of romance novels.  Don’t hate me.  They are really are lovely.  They are not too long and they always resolve in such a nice, neat package – very appealing.

The problem is that I have now started to day dream about a rich, handsome guy showing up at work or on the train to sweep me off my feet.  Not just any rich, handsome guy. No, this guy has chiseled abs, just the right amount of stubble and a home in Sardinia.

I can wish all I want, but I have already been swept off my feet.  He has the stubble, but alas, no home in a sunny, warm locale.

And wishing is not going to change that.

I tried to explain that to a few candidates this week.  Not the part about getting a new husband, but the part about wishing for a new role that’s a departure from where you are today.

It’s not that a major career move is not possible.  It is just that you need to be rational.

I had someone try to convince me that they would be ideally suited to sell medical devices because their neighbour was a doctor and they had spent a lot of time together building a fence.   He honestly thought that having a beer with a doctor imparted enough knowledge to make him a legitimate candidate for the role.  Come on!

It is fine to daydream about a job when you read a posting on monster, but give your head a shake.  Read the list of requirements.  Can you honestly say yes to at least half of them?  It does not matter whether you agree with them nor does it matter that you think you have a better list of requirements.  The employer has put them there for a reason.  Respect it.

If the posting says “living, breathing human”, then by all means, go ahead and apply but if it says “have a degree in mechanical engineering”, then going on a date with an engineer is not going to cut it.

But if you see a place in Sardinia, could you let me know?

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Filed under career change, Job Search, linkedin, recruiter, Resume

Looking for that first job?

All kinds of new grads are being released in the wilds of the employment world this month.

They have a degree or a diploma in hand and are ready to land their dream job.

Wrong.

It’s really too bad that we have set them up for that expectation.  You first job will never be your dream job.  That only happens in the movies.

When you emerge from your sheltered school environment, you feel like you know everything.  Then you get a job and you realize how much you actually don’t know.  You also learn what having a “job” and a “boss” is really like.

It can be an ugly time.  But it’s also a time of great learning; it kind of caps off your education.  That first manager will really help shape what you want to do in your life.  If you are lucky enough to have a great manager, then the job itself is almost irrelevant.  You will learn about balancing work and life, about setting priorities and answering to different types of people.

If, on the other hand, you have a bad manager, it is still a great learning opportunity.  You learn a lot about the things that you don’t like and the things you will never do when you are a manager.

All this comes into play when you are looking for jobs number two and three.  At this point, you are starting to hone in on the things that you are really good at and the type of manager you need have to continue to develop.  Now, things are starting to shape up and you might actually be able to see what your dream job might really look like.

So, don’t get too hung up on your first gig.  Just start. Get a job,  make some money and continue learning.  That’s all that’s going to matter in the end.

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You want to be a what?

Spring is just around the corner and whether you are about to graduate or just itchy for change, there are many new and emerging roles and even, industries to explore. 

Gone are the days where a job with IBM or a bank or the government meant you were set for life. Those institutions may have good pensions but that’s about it. The concept of a “job for life” no longer exists. Even if you have been with.a company for a long time, there are no guarantees.

So, let’s put that idea aside. For good. That gives us the freedom to explore all kinds of different options. And there are lots of options. We just have to throw away the blinders that cause us to ignore or dismiss jobs seem unfamiliar or could be short lived.

I toured a bread factory this week. It was fascinating. The company has invested $10 million in new equipment. There are new mixers and a flour transport line and five kilometers of conveyors. Think of how many people were involved in designing, manufacturing and installing all that equipment. Not to mention the number of people it takes to develop recipes for clients and actually make the bread. (Turns out those pretzels buns we love are quite the challenge to make!)

Or consider the nuclear industry. Ontario Power Generation is refurbishing the four reactors at the Darlington station and the mega project is expected to take 112 months. That’s a long time and will involve not just engineers and trades people (although there are millions of hours of those skills needed). They will need analysts, and accountants and public relations folks and they might even need a sandwich or two as well.

Which brings us back to bread……

Don’t be afraid to explore opportunities that you have not considered. There are so many things happening so quickly that it really is up to each of us to explore, discover and research the big possibilities for our careers.    

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It’s Just as Hard at the Top

Barack Obama is on a job search.  What does one do after one has been the leader of the free world?  

It’s not as easy as you might think.  Sure, he has a vast network of international politicians and dignitaries but what do they know about finding a job?

  • Let’s loook at his recent experience:
  • Delivering earnest speeches
  • Consoler in Chief
  • Negotiating everything from multi latereral trade deals to agricultural deals
  • Wearing only white shirts and blue suits

After eight years of this, what is he ready to do next?  Of course, he will start a foundation and write him memoirs but really, then what?  He is a young guy with a long future ahead of him.  

I guess he could go back to being a law professor.  Students would line up forever to hear him give lectures.  While I am sure that would be gratifying, I don’t think it would compete with his former life.  

And would a University Dean would hire him?  Can’t you just imagine the questions?

“You seem a little experienced for this role…..why are you interested in it?”

“I see that you have travelled extensively.  This role has no opportunity for travel.  Won’t you get bored?”

He would face the same wierd questions we all do.  Employers are nervous whether you are a former President of the United States or a former president of the Star Trek Fan Club.

The key for him and for you is to learn to tell your stories and explain your experience with confidence and clarity.  

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To Refer or Not to Refer

One of the first lessons you learn as a recruiter is to ask for referrals.  If you are talking with someone and they are not interested or qualified, you should ask if there is anyone they would recommend for the role.

I always thought this made sense.  People like to be asked for their opinion and generally, people like to be helpful.  I figured it would feel pretty good to help someone discover a new job that they really like.arrow

But then I listened to a podcast where a software engineer said he felt used when he is asked for referrals.  His feeling was the the recruiter was not going to earn a fee from him/his experience and yet he was being asked to provide information that would lead to the recruiter earning a fee from someone else.  And in the end, he would get nothing.

I was struck by such strong cynicism.  It rolled round in my head for a week and I actually stopped asking people for suggestions.

Now that the dust has settled, here are my observations. He worked as a leader in an industry that is desperately short of talent.  He did not say this but I bet he gets called by recruiters every other day.  I am sure his patience runs thin with our industry.  He is also working in an American company and while I don’t have empirical proof, I bet the attitudes here about helping out are different.  Who in Canada would not buy someone a Tim Horton’s double double if they needed it?

What do you think?  Is it rude and presumptuous to ask someone for referrals if a job is not right for them?

 

 

 

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Filed under career change, Job Search, Networking, recruiter

Cold Weather Interview Prep

It’s winter here in Canada and if you are doing the interview circuit, you need to be prepared.

There is nothing worse than sniffling during a conversation.  You try to be subtle by wiggling your nose or casually wiping your sleeve near your nose but face it: there is no substitute for a tissue.  So start each day by putting one in your pocket, sleeve or bra strap.

If you have a bit of a cough or a tickle (and who doesn’t these days?), then put some lozenges or tic tacs in your pocket, purse or briefcase. You can pop one while you are waiting for your meeting to start.  It will give you something to do with your hands.

Make sure you give yourself extra time before the interview but don’t hang around the reception area – that’s not cool.  Plan to take a few minutes in the lobby for your body temperature to sort itself out.  Your face and hands will be cold but your armpits will be working overtime so rather than greet the person you are meeting with cold hands and the tell-tale half moons of nervousness, spend a few minutes in the lobby.  Take off your coat, blow your nose and wait until everything comes to room temperature.  Then head upstairs to announce your presence.

Finally, no matter how much of a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks fan you are, don’t take your coffee into the meeting unless you are prepared to offer some to the other person.

So to sum up:  arrive early, finish your latte in the lobby, pop a tic tac and set yourself up for a great conversation.

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